Preserving fresh foods of the summer to enjoy later in the year is a cooking technique as old as cooking itself. Our forefathers dried, canned, and preserved the bounty of their garden to sustain their needs in the cold of winter. The whole process is — subtle blends of seasonings, pots of simmering concoctions, down to the hand-made labels on jars and bottles bespeaks of the promise of imminent reward.
If you’re planning to put up a large quantity of food, you might want to invest in a preserving kettle, the best made of heavy-gauge stainless steel with a really heavy bottom to evenly distribute the heat. Avoid plain aluminum, copper, and brass pots as they will react to some ingredients, causing an “off” flavor in the finished product.
A scale is helpful as well as a battery of wooden spoons in different sizes. A wide-mouth funnel and a stainless steel or enameled strainer are also useful. Besides a large chopping board and good quality chopping and paring knives, you’ll also need a rack that fits into the bottom of your preserving kettle and a jar lifter and/or several hot pads.
Old jars can be used once sterilized, but do invest in new rubber-sealing lids and new bands. Vinegars can be in recycled glass bottles with a cork or screw-on top. Most gourmet shops, shops which specialize in imported items (such as Pier 1), and some discount stores have pretty glass bottles made especially for Vinegars.
One last thought–unless your family is very large, put the food up in small batches, 1 to 1/2 pints at the most as once the food is no longer sealed, it must be refrigerated (unless the recipe says to refrigerate immediately).
Here are some of our choices to preserve the taste of summer produce:
Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Peaches, or Apricots
Have a huge supply of Roma (plum) tomatoes? You can sun-dry them for use in sauces, pasta, stews, breads, etc. later in the year. When I had a home in the dessert, I used to dry tomatoes (and fruit such as apricots, peaches, etc.) outdoors on a rack made of chicken wire nailed to a wooden frame, covered with a double layer of cheesecloth to deter the birds from finding it. Each night, I’d bring the whole thing indoors to protect from the evening dew and then once again outside at first dawn to catch some more rays. The time it took depended on the intensity of the full sun they were in and the moisture content of what I was drying. Since bugs can be a problem where I now live in Texas, I find that the oven method is easier and a lot less work.
Set your oven to 200°F (93.3°C). Position the oven racks to where they divide the oven into thirds. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise (same with peaches and apricots, removing the pit). Using your fingers or a tiny spoon, remove and discard the tomato seeds. Arrange the tomatoes (peaches or apricots), cut side down, directly on the oven racks. Close the oven and let them dry for 12 to 15 hours or to desired dryness. Store in air-tight self-closing plastic bags and use dried tomatoes within 3 months. Refrigerate the dried peaches and apricots in a air-tight self-closing plastic bags.
|2 dried tomato halves = 1 vegetable|
2 small dried peach halves = 1 carbohydrate (1 fruit)
2 medium dried apricot halves = 1 carbohydrate (1 fruit)
Fresh Tomato Ketchup
(makes about 1 1/2 pints)
An excellent way to “put up” an overabundance of tomatoes, this spicy ketchup is easy to make — and you control the salt.
|4||pounds (1.8 kg) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped|
|1||large onion, 8 ounces (240 g), chopped|
|2||large cloves garlic, minced|
|2/3||cup (160 ml0 dark cider vinegar|
|2||tablespoons (25 g) dark brown sugar|
|1/2||teaspoon (2.5 ml) crushed dried red pepper flakes|
|1||large bay leaf, broken in half|
|1 1/2||teaspoons (7.5 ml) salt (optional)|
|1||teaspoon (5 ml) ground cinnamon|
|1||teaspoon (5 ml) paprika|
|3/4||teaspoon (3.75 ml) ground mustard|
|1/2||teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground coriander|
|1/4||teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground allspice|
|dash ground cloves|
|dash cayenne pepper|
|freshly ground pepper to taste|
|1.||Place all ingredients in a large nonreactive pot. Stir and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower heat to simmer and continue to cook, partially covered, for 1 hour, stirring often. Remove and discard the bay leaf halves.|
|2.||Working in batches, transfer the tomato mixture to a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Return to the pot and continue to simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom.|
|3.||Ladle the mixture into three half-point (240 ml) sterilized canning jars. Wipe the rims and set the kids, screwing on the bands loosely. Let cool at room temperature until lids are sealed (compressed). Tighten the bands and refrigerate for up to 6 months.|
|Per 1/4-cup (60 ml) serving:||49 calories (10% calories from fat), 2 g protein, 1 g total fat (0.1 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 0 cholesterol, 17 mg sodium|
|Diabetic exchanges:||2 vegetable|
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(makes 16 servings)
A moist chocolate cake that doesn’t need frosting. Make two, one for now, and one to freeze for later. Recipe courtesy of Sugar Twin ® Spoonable Sugar Replacement
|vegetable cooking spray|
|3||cups (420 g) all-purpose flour|
|1/2||cup (9.5 g) Sugar Twin ® Spoonable|
|1/2||cup (9.5 g) unsweetened cocoa powder|
|1||tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder|
|2||teaspoons (10 ml) baking soda|
|2||teaspoons (10 ml) ground cinnamon|
|1/2||teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cloves|
|1/2||teaspoon (2.5 ml) cream of tartar|
|12||tablespoons (150 g) reduced-fat margarine, melted|
|1/2||cup (120 ml) liquid egg substitute|
|1/2||cup (115 g) light sour cream|
|1||cup (240 ml) 2% low-fat milk|
|2||teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract|
|6||large egg whites, beaten until soft peaks form|
|3/4||pound (360 g) zucchini, unpeeled, trimmed, and shredded|
|1.||Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C), Gas Mark 4. Lightly coat two 8X8-inch (20X20-cm) metal baking pans with cooking spray.|
|2.||In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, SugarTwin, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, cream of tartar, and salt.|
|3.||In a large bowl, beat together the melted margarine, egg substitute, sour cream, milk, and vanilla. Gradually stir in the sifted dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Stir in zucchini and gently fold in beaten egg whites.|
|4.||Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Completely cool in pan on a wire rack. Wrap and freeze one cake; refrigerate second cake for up to 3 days.|
|Per serving:||171 calories (34% calories from fat), 6 g protein, 7 g total fat (1.9 g saturated fat), 23 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 4 mg cholesterol, 469 mg sodium|
|Diabetic exchanges:||1 1/2 carbohydrate (1 1/2 bread-starch), 1 fat|
For our earlier book, The Joslin Diabetes Gourmet Cookbook (Bantam Books) we devised recipes for pickled vegetables that provided us with plenty of these delicious “free” snacks for pennies. The pickled vegetables are ready to eat that day; refrigerate any leftovers and use within one week.Pickled Carrots
(makes 10 servings)
|1||pound (480 g) baby carrots, peeled|
|1/2||teaspoon (2.5 ml) dried dill weed|
|1||teaspoon (5 ml) mustard seed|
|3/4||cup (180 ml) cider vinegar|
|1/2||cup (120 ml) water|
|1/2||teaspoon (2.5 ml) pickling spices|
|12||whole black peppercorns|
|1.||Trim carrots so they fit vertically 3/4-inch (2 cm) below the rim of a wide-mouth pint glass jar.|
|2.||In a large skillet, cook carrots in water to cover until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.|
|3.||Loosely pack carrots vertically into a sterilized wide-mouth point glass jar along with dill weed and mustard seed.|
|4.||In a small saucepan, bring pickling solution ingredients to a boil. Pour hot liquid over carrots to cover. Reserve any extra liquid.|
|5.||Cover and refrigerate. If needed, add reserved liquid after carrots are chilled to keep carrots covered with liquid. Use within 1 week.|
|Per serving:||28 calories (<1% calories from fat), 1 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, trace fat (0 saturated fat), 1 g dietary fiber, 0 cholesterol, 16 mg sodium|
Pickled Asparagus: follow the recipe for Pickled Carrots, using 1 1/2 pounds (720 g) pencil-thin asparagus, tough ends timed, in place of the carrots. Cook in boiling water until barely tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, immerse in ice water, then drain again. Pack asparagus vertically into jar along with 4 fresh tarragon sprigs in place of the dill and mustard seed. Fill jar with hot pickling solution. Refrigerate; use within 1 week. Makes 10 servings. Per serving: 24 calories, 4 g carbohydrate. Exchanges, free.
Pickled Green Beans: Follow the recipe for Pickled Carrots, suing 3/4 pound (360 g) small green beans, ends trimmed, in place of carrots. Cook beans in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, immerse in water, and drain again. Pack beans vertically in sterilized jar along with 2 small dried red chile peppers and 1 teaspoon 95 ml) cumin seed in place of the dill and mustard seed. Fill jar with hot pickling solution. Refrigerate; use within 1 week. Makes 10 serving. Per serving: 13 calories, 4 g carbohydrate. Exchanges: free
Pickled Okra: Follow the recipe for Pickled Carrots, using 3/4 pound (360 g) fresh okra, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, instead of the carrots. Trim stems, taking care not to cut into the okra itself. Place 1 peeled garlic clove, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dill seed, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) celery seed, 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) mustard seed, and 1 small dried red chile pepper in the sterilized jar instead of the dill weed and mustard seed. Pack okra vertically in jar, stem end up. Fill jar with hot pickling solution. Refrigerate; use within 1 week. Makes 10 servings. Per serving: 13 calories, 4 g carbohydrate. Exchanges: free
You can also make Vinegars with your harvest–the first is one we like to use on fruit salads, leafy greens, or for marinating chicken before grilled. It makes use of ripe apricots or peaches. The vinegar is pretty, lightly scented, ad naturally sweet. The second is a herb vinegar: fresh rosemary (our favorite herb).
Apricot or Peach Vinegar: Sterilize two quart (60 ml) glass canning jars with lids. Peel, pit, and coarsely chop 1 1/2 pounds (720 g) of fresh ripe apricots or peaches. Divide the fruit between the two jars. Add a 3-inch (7.5 cm) cinnamon stick that has been broken into 3 pieces to each jar. Fill each jar with about 1 1/2 cup (720 ml) white wine vinegar, making sure the fruit is covered by the vinegar. Run a narrow spatula between the fruit and the jar to remove any air bubbles. Cover and refrigerate for 2 weeks.
Sterilize two 12-fluid ounce (360 ml) decorative vinegar bottles with lid. Strain the vinegar mixture through a fine sieve, then through a coffee filter, discarding the solids. Pour the strained vinegar into the two prepared bottles. Seal and store at room temperature. Use within 2 months. Once opened, refrigerate. Exchanges: free
Lemon Rosemary Vinegar: Sterilize two 12-fluid ounce (360 ml) decorative vinegar bottles with lid. Place 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and 2 long strips of lemon zest in each bottle.
In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups (720 ml) red wine vinegar to a boil. Using a funnel, pour hot vinegar into bottles, dividing equally. Seal and let stand at room temperature for 2 weeks to develop flavors before using. Use within 6 months. Once open, refrigerate.
Editor’s Note: Don’t try to make this vinegar with cloves of garlic. Home preparation does not sufficiently process raw garlic so that it and the vinegar stay fresh.